by Rich Moreland, July 2014
Proud Parents is B Skow at his cleverest, a parody of porn history and a history of porn told tongue-in-cheek. Skow presents an inside look at adult film with a movie within a movie that entertains a question every parent faces.
The sex scenes are top notch with three standout women, India Summer, Lily LeBeau, and the incomparable Casey Calvert. There’s enough nastiness in that trio to guarantee the success of any adult film.
The movie opens with Stan (Steven St. Croix) and Marge (India Summer) being interviewed by an unseen film director (B Skow). After meeting on a porn set—it was “love at first thrust,” Stan says—they married in 1982. Porn has brought Stan and Marge a comfortable home with a swimming pool they never use and enough money to pay for their daughter’s elite education.
Though their conversation has the casual appearance of a BTS (Behind the Scenes) segment that is common in today’s DVDs, Stan and Marge are actually talking with the documentary filmmaker who is following their daughter Casey (Casey Calvert). Unbeknown to her parents, she plans to enter the business and is set to do her first shoot.
Skow establishes the tone for the film when it’s revealed that Casey grew up around porn. Despite the opportunities the business has provided them, Stan and Marge are adamantly opposed to Casey following in their footsteps.
Jamie Gillis, the rough-sex porn icon of 1980s and 1990s—the era of the VCR and white nose powder all around—is offhandedly mentioned. When Stan and Marge move into the film’s first sex scene at the request of the documentary filmmaker, the legendary Marilyn Chambers’ oral skills on Gillis in Insatiable II (1984) are recalled. Marge drops her head over the bedside for Stan’s pleasure in a salute to Chambers. At film’s end, Casey Calvert will offer another round of the same.
A Garage Studio
When Casey shows up for her first shoot in garage studio (the American dream often starts in a garage), Skow presents a hilarious 1980s moment. A dude named Leonard bops in wearing a tacky two piece outfit that thankfully is locked away in pop culture’s disco past. In this uncredited cameo, Richie Calhoun tries vainly to produce wood for his scene with Casey. It’s hopeless, of course, because he’s really the late John Holmes, cokehead extraordinaire, whose droopiness couldn’t respond to the best oral efforts of Marilyn Chambers in Up and Coming (1983).
1980s cheesiness is not all rotten apples, however. When Casey’s identity is accidentally exposed, the garage director, Jean Kreem (Scott Lyons) is ready to drop her like an overheated halogen lamp. To save the day she reverses the casting couch schtick (they are on a couch, literally). She sucks him off. All the while Jean takes on a bizarre, wild-eyed look. Remember the fantasies of 1980s filmmaker, Rinse Dream (aka F. X. Pope), whose Night Dreams I, II, and III (1981, ’89, ’91) are avant-garde classics to this day?
The garage has a green screen and in an all-too-short segment, Casey’s friend Franny (Aiden Ashley) has a brief fling with porn newcomer, Keisha Grey. It’s steamy, but nothing like Franny and Casey’s earlier scene for the documentary guy.
Challenging Casey’s career decision, the director suggests that sex for money is different from loving sex. Casey’s answer is to have a good grind with her friend in his presence. Beyond the finger banging and oral with a scissors wrap-up, what makes the Casey/Franny scene top quality is their slutty demeanor. In warming up for her best sex, Casey’s eyes narrow with a wantonness that is deviously framed in a puckered brow. It’s the Casey Calvert erotic trademark. Like a cat ready to strike, Casey draws back a little before feasting on her lover with a smuttiness that redefines salacious. On the other hand, Aiden is demure and dreamy, but when the action starts is as aggressive as Casey.
“Does that answer your question?” Casey says, finishing up with Franny.
To add an exclamation point to her performance, Casey crawls across the bed toward the director and as the camera focuses on her chest and neck, muffled slurping is heard. Remember a teenaged Traci Lord’s rep for doing everyone on the set?
Gonzo Implanted in a Feature
B Skow shoots the garage sequences in the reality TV mode popularized in porn with John Stagliano’s Buttman series. By the 1990s, gonzo, as the style came to be known, was appropriated for all-sex productions. Close-ups of anal and oral thrusting moved to the front of the line. Skow pays tribute to Stagliano with over-the-shoulder POV shots, including Franny’s tongue on Keisha’s crotch. The final sexcapade between Casey and Kurt Lockwood ends with a splashy facial (Casey is careful to keep her eyes closed), gonzo to the core.
Skow’s camera moves about in Stagliano style, not always removing objects around the cluttered garage. With sex scenes hastily set up in an amateurish way, Proud Parents seems like an off-the-cuff production. In truth, it’s a carefully crafted tribute to porn in the new century, gonzo implanted in a feature.
An eventual three-way between Stan, Marge, and Casey’s friend Zooey (Lily LaBeau) is superb, proving that Skow’s sex scenes are rich and diverse. During Zooey’s oral work on Stan, cameras drift in and out of picture adding moments of delightful confusion. In one part of the sequence, Stan holds the camera that is shooting Zooey’s efforts and a crewman’s foot is spotted momentarily.
This is porn set reality. Things and people get in the way inadvertently and because of limited budgets, retakes don’t happen and editing doesn’t cover it all. Proud Parents is a commentary on how movies are made.
There is much in the threesome to be appreciated, though one shot stands out. Skow moves his camera above the action when Stan doggies Marge, Marge munches Zooey, and she kisses Stan. Later when Zooey moves to the floor, a cameraman hands Marge a strap-on. Priceless.
Raised in the Wild
Shoot cancelled, a disappointed Casey comes home reluctant to deal with her parents. The documentary director persuades her to give it a try, saying, “They raised a horse in the wild and they don’t expect it wants to run?”
When Casey finds a note her parents are out, her agent, Mark Spiegler, calls with a booking (Casey Calvert is a highly regarded Spiegler girl, by the way). Excited, the determined neophyte returns to the garage to be surprised by her parents and her old babysitter, their good friend Kurt (Kurt Lockwood), who refused to do Casey in the earlier scrapped scene.
Everything is a go now. Before they start, Kurt mentions the reality of a porn career. “Every day on the set, you’re going to do something you regret,” he says to Casey. “Question is, is that something you can live with?”
Like loving parents supporting their child’s first game, play, party, what have you, Marge and Stan are there to videotape the launch of Casey’s career. In hot sex with Kurt there is a standing sixty-nine, Casey positions her head upside down in front of his crotch in the best of gonzo acrobatics.
Oh yes, like Marge and Marilyn Chambers before her, Casey drops her head over the couch to fellate Kurt again. Stan later comes in to pause the action for the stills. In a reverse anal cowgirl, Casey seduces his camera with her signature expression, eyes of determined pleasure, as he clicks away.
“She’s going to have a great career,” Kurt says.
Who, then, are the Proud Parents in this film? Don’t be deceived by the obvious, because there is a twist to come. In a porn movie about making a porn movie with an embedded documentary film to drive the story, possibilities abound.
* * * * *
Not long ago, I talked with B Skow about the comeback of the feature, a vehicle that he admires and is able to supplement with gonzo elements that satisfy a modern audience.
Though the DVD does not sustain the popularity of the video tape when that was a viewer’s only option, it survives with verve because people want to own things, he says, “they want to have it somewhere.”
“If you make something interesting, there’s a crowd [for it],” Skow believes. The crowd does not have to be huge, it just needs to exist.
Girlfriends Films’ award-winning boy/girl director proves his point with each of his productions. Proud Parents sold out in two weeks of its release, unheard of in today’s market. But it is no wonder, B Skow has built a following with films he rightly considers art.
When I asked about Casey Calvert, Skow’s praise is effusive. “She’s one of the top,” he exclaims, “a girl that loves what she does.”
Casey Calvert treats Skow with similar enthusiasm.
“B Skow is very easy to work with. He pretty much lets us do whatever ideas we have,” she comments. He avoids over directing the sex scenes “unless he needs something super specific.” When I inquire about shooting with Kurt Lockwood, Casey references their creativity. “Skow sets up three cameras and just lets us do our thing,” she explains, “Kurt and I made up that last scene as we went.”
Though we don’t get into the MILF aspect of the film, Casey praises my favorite mature couple in porn.
“I LOVE India. Steven has played my dad in multiple movies, but we have never had sex. I like him. He’s very professional and a good actor,” she beams.
No doubt India and Steven have similar praise for Casey. There is a reason why these top tier performers appear on the boxcover; it’s all about competency, responsibility, and a personal pride in their work.
One response to “Is That Something You Can Live With?”
I have long been an admirer of this blog, an intriguing mixture of fine critical intelligence and lust. And I’m greatly looking forward to Rich’s book. It may be of interest, for those keen on historical perspectives, that my own history of sexuality, Written in the Flesh: A History of Desire (University of Toronto Press, 2005) has a chapter on the history of fetish/bdsm. It is, I think, the only serious thing that exists on the subject. I’m interested now in updating the story to the present, and have a lively interest in current developments. Those who’d like to share their own perspectives may contact me at email@example.com